A survey of surveys on law firm attributes that law departments value

A number of surveys have examined what law departments feel are desirable law firm attributes (See my posts of Oct. 31, 2005 on European law departments and 11 attributes; Jan. 30, 2006 on Kirkpatrick Lockhart’s findings about 8 attributes; March 13, 2006 for LexisNexis Martindale-Hubble’s findings on 8 attributes; and Oct. 30, 2006 for 10 attributes according to respondents in the insurance industry.).

These four surveys asked about several similar attributes, but diverged on as many more attributes. Here is a breakdown of the 37 total attributes asked about by these surveys.

Every survey offered cost as a criterion, sometimes in two variations: “fees and budgets,” “value for money,” “cost,” “billing transparency,” and “hourly rates.”

Three of the four surveys asked about expertise, although one separated “lawyer expertise” from “firm expertise” while another included “quality of legal advice” and “quality of commercial advice.”

Three of the four inquired about client service, if client service includes “promptness,” “efficiency,” “responsive,” and “reliability,” which were the four attributes one survey asked about.

Two surveys included reputation, with one of them distinguishing “firm reputation” from “lawyer reputation.”

Aside from the 19 shared attributes categorized above there were 18 attributes asked about by only one of the surveys, which attributes include: “geographic location of offices,” “international capability,” “intangibles,” “knowledge of industry,” “honesty,” “long-standing,” “personal relationship/accessibility,” “added value,” “partner involvement,” “IT/knowledge management,” “communication effectiveness,” “work as a team,” “enjoyable lawyers,” “racial diversity,” “gender diversity,” “proportion of African-Americans,” and “pro bono.”

One can hope that future surveys don’t stick to the same ruts, but travel more deeply into the terrain of what the more important attributes mean in real life (See my post of Oct. 30, 2005 on Fulbright & Jaworski and its data on negative qualities.).

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